Articles Posted in Breach of Fiduciary Duty

Shawn Edward Good, who was a registered broker with Morgan Stanley it its Wilmington, North Carolina office, was recently barred by FINRA by consent agreement.  Mr. Good also has a pending SEC Complaint against him alleging the following involvement in a ponzi scheme:

  • From 2012 until 2022 Mr. Good solicited customers to transfer funds to his personal bank account, allegedly for investments in real estate and government bonds.
  • In ponzi scheme fashion, the transferred monies were used to repay earlier customers who had also invested, in addition to payment of Mr. Good’s personal expenses.

Former Richmond, Virginia Oppenheimer & Co. Inc. financial advisor Warren E. Rowe Jr. was barred from the securities industry by FINRA recently after an investigation related to alleged loans taken from customers.

According the the FINRA Letter of Acceptance Waiver and Consent found here, Mr. Rowe refused to provide documents in response to a request of FINRA investigators.  The AWC, signed by Mr. Rowe, imposed a bar on Mr. Rowe’s association with any FINRA member in all capacities.

Mr. Rowe’s FINRA Brokercheck report reveals that he voluntarily resigned from Oppenheimer in May 2020 after an allegation that he took a loan from a client without disclosing it to the firm.  The report also references multiple customer complaints related to alleged loans, as well as complaints related to unauthorized trading, and inappropriate margin use.  Interestingly, a customer complaint regarding a loan made after his separation from Oppenheimer is still listed as “denied” by the firm.

The U.S. Department of Labor has sounded a warning regarding 401(k) plan investments in cryptocurrencies. In Compliance Assistance Release No. 2022-01 (issued March 10, 2022), 401(k) plan fiduciaries are urged to “exercise extreme care before they consider adding a cryptocurrency option to a 401(k) plan’s investment menu for plan participants.” Because of the risks and uncertainties associated with cryptocurrencies, the guidance document raises “serious concerns about the prudence of a fiduciary’s decision to expose a 401(k) plan’s participants to direct invest in cryptocurrencies or other products whose value is tied cryptocurrencies.”

Under federal laws governing retirement plans (commonly known as ERISA), the investment manager of a 401(k) plan is considered a fiduciary, who must act solely in the financial interests of the plan participants.  Courts hold fiduciaries to very high standards of professional care and prudence.  When these standards are breached, the asset manager can be held personally liable for the losses resulting from the breach. For 401(k) plans, the fiduciary is obligated to evaluate independently which investments are suitable to include in the investment options from which plan participants may choose.  Offering imprudent investment options to participants is considered a breach of duty.

The Department of Labor identified several areas of concern that make cryptocurrencies and cryptocurrency-tied products exceptionally risky investments for 401(k) participants.

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